One of the most difficult things about a lockdown and social distancing is not being able to see your own children for weeks or even months at a time. Social distancing here in the Netherlands began on March 15 when the infection rate was only 1,500 persons. Today, a little over 3 weeks later, we have over 20,000 infected with COVID-19.
I find myself taking a deep breath and bracing myself each time I get an email from the organization running my son, B’s care home. I carefully copy and paste the Dutch text into Google translate to make sure I’m not missing any important issues. I still don’t trust my Dutch when it comes to my son. The care home residents are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Many residents, B included, would not be able to communicate any beginning symptoms of the illness. Other residents have medical issues that would make an infection much more deadly. His care home is currently located in the top floor of a building that houses an elderly care home on the ground floor. The organization had originally selected a lovely, large, free-standing house in a nice community to house its residents, consisting of 9 young people and adults, aged 9-24 with various disabilities who need 24 hour supervision. Another small group in the home consists of young adults needing supported living. When housing the residents at that home fell through, the vacant top floor of the elderly home run by the same organization became a temporary housing solution.
The no-visit policy was instituted two weeks ago when several of the downstairs residents contracted COVID-19. There have been several deaths. The shared entrance made the lockdown mandatory.
My son has always enjoyed monthly visits to spend a weekend with me here in Amsterdam. Due to the lockdown, this is no longer possible. B doesn’t understand the idea of flattening the curve, the implications of an epidemic, or that exposure to an infected person could result in death. He only knows that his schedule has been suspended and his life upended. He is not even able to do his normal work in the garden, clearly visible from his bedroom window, because he would be in contact with residents living in other facilities.
However, he does somewhat understand the illness we are describing. In mid-February, he contracted a strange illness with symptoms of a high fever (39.4C, 103 F) , dry cough, and loss of appetite. My healthy son who had never been sick enough to stay in bed for more than a portion of a day was so ill that he didn’t want to leave his room for an entire week. He barely ate during that time, which is quite uncharacteristic for B. He tested negative for the flu. They were not even suspecting COVID-19 back then. It took a full two weeks for him to recover. I am hoping that an antibody test can be administered in the near future to verify that he had COVID-19. In the meantime, he will have to forego the Burger Bar hamburgers, the Il Sogno pizza, nachos at the Butcher, and The Infamous pancakes at Moak. He will miss his trips to the Amsterdam Artis Zoo, A’Dam Lookout, and walking on Zeedijk. My explanation of thinking of this time as a season, one that will change in time, seemed to help him understand. I will just continue to miss him.
I have not seen my daughter, K in over a month now. Although that is difficult, I stay connected with her by phone conversations and text messages. We share stories, worries, and anecdotes. It’s different in B’s case. Relief and a positive antibody test cannot come soon enough.